State of Metropolitan America — How Does the Lehigh Valley Compare?

Last week, the Brookings Institution released its highly-anticipated report The State of Metropolitan America. The report focuses on major demographic factors that affect a metropolitan region — including Race & Ethnicity, Age, Income  & Poverty, and Commuting — and also groups the metro regions into a new typology “based upon metrics of population growth, diversity, and educational attainment as compared to national averages.”

The Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton metro region (which is different from the Lehigh Valley region, as the A-B-E region includes parts of Carbon County and Northern New Jersey) is labeled a Mid-Sized Magnet, characterized by High Growth, Low Diversity, and Low Education. The report states that the magnets have experienced “high growth, but exhibit lower shares of Hispanic and Asian minorities, and lower levels of educational attainment. These 15 mid-sized … locations got caught in the growth spiral of the 2000s that ended abruptly with the housing crash.” Interestingly, most of these magnets are located in the Southeast (many in Florida), which makes the A-B-E metro region characterization unique.

What does this label mean for our metro region, and, specifically, what does it mean for our cities? The report states:

Mid-Sized Magnet metro areas must seek greater economic balance in the wake of the housing crash. Smart infrastructure investments in these metro areas could promote growth of alternative energy production and distribution, international travel and tourism, and linkages with larger nearby centers of global commerce. Their leaders must also be fierce champions for the continued viability of 2- and 4-year higher education institutions, which offer the best hope for ensuring that their large and growing young, minority populations can share in the fruits of future economic growth.

Indeed, future economic growth must be stressed, and I would argue that it will be especially important to create more opportunities within our urban cores. I did a very quick-and-brief analysis, comparing data from the A-B-E region with data from other Mid-Sized Magnets, and discovered something very interesting and – dare I say – disturbing: the discrepancy between the median household income of the primary city (in our case, Allentown) and that of the suburbs is greater here than in any other magnet region. The median income in Allentown is a little over $39K, while the median income in the suburbs is over $62K.  Other magnet regions often did not have much of a discrepancy — while the gap in the A-B-E region is greater than $20,000.

Unfortunately, I cannot cover all topics of interest from this Brookings study within this post, but I invite you to visit the report site to explore the report in more detail. If you come across something particularly interesting in your exploring, make sure to share in our comments below.

About Beata Bujalska

Beata Bujalska is the former Campaign Coordinator for Renew Lehigh Valley. She currently lives in Panama, a place that fascinates her due to (among other reasons) its recent development boom.

Posted on May 17, 2010, in Education, Housing, Media Coverage, Municipal Government, Public Infrastructure, Transportation, Trends, Urbanism and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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